RIO DE JANEIRO • The United States and Spain finally lived up to expectations, posting blowout wins on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament.
While the United States and Spain have struggled to reach their full potential in Rio, Australia and Serbia have delivered more than expected in reaching the last four.
Even though the United States were the only team to finish group play undefeated, questions about their ability to claim a third straight gold swirled after three unimpressive wins in the preliminary round.
Those questions were answered in the form of a 105-78 rout of Argentina as the US extended their Olympic winning run to 23 games.
"We got our swagger back, offensively and defensively," three-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Paul George said.
Second-ranked Spain also made a poor start to the tournament with losses to Brazil and Croatia before shifting into top gear with four straight wins, including a 92-67 victory over France on Wednesday to ease into the last four.
Basketball fans can savour the prospect of a semi-final between the US and Spain. George has assured fans that there will be no complacency among the US players.
"This is another challenging team, so we have got to come in right," he said. "They have a little bit of everything - shooters, big men, ball handlers, scorers.
"They have played together for a while, so they have some experience."
For vanquished France and Argentina, both lost more than a key game, as they bade farewell to stars who had put their respective countries on the basketball map.
Tony Parker, 34, confirmed after the loss that he had played his final game for France.
Just a few hours later, his 39-year-old San Antonio Spurs team-mate Manu Ginobili followed suit by calling an end to his international career with Argentina.
"It has been an amazing run," Ginobili said of a 20-year span topped by the 2004 Olympic gold. "I'm very proud. Sad and happy."
Ranked 11th, Australia punched above their weight by upsetting third-ranked Lithuania 90-64 to close in on what would be a first Olympic basketball medal.
"It's another step on our journey," said Matthew Dellavedova, one of four Australians in the squad with NBA title rings. "We've set the goal of winning a gold medal and today was just another step."
They face Serbia, who held off Croatia 86-83, in the semi-finals.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE